This is shocking news, but not too surprising: I know a few of the people in this facility, and when I talked to them last they were deeply concerned about this possibility. The University of Hawaii is planning to shut down the Kewalo Marine Laboratory. They’re doing it so they can funnel more money into the expansion of a cancer research center, which is certainly valuable, but not at the expense of closing half of their marine facilities. This is especially shocking because heck, when students here in the cold and land-locked midwest talk to me about going into marine biology, many of them ask about Hawaii — it’s only natural that they’d imagine a tropical island would be a haven for that kind of research, and it is. It’s just that the state doesn’t support it. This is an ironic fact:
The Kewalo scientists said that Florida, also an ocean state, has 22 marine labs. “Even Georgia would have more marine labs (four) than Hawaii” if the Kewalo facility goes, said Michael Hadfield, biosciences research center faculty member and former director.
So I should tell my students that Georgia would be a better place to study marine biology? That’s nice for the South, not so nice for Hawaii.
And it’s not as if Kewalo has been unproductive — they’ve turned out some amazing work. Mark Martindale is there, as the director. The man is a Very Big Name in the field of evo-devo — go back through my evo-devo posts, and he keeps popping up everywhere. He’s working on early pattern formation in the metazoans, and his papers are indispensable in understanding early evolutionary events.
An old friend of mine, Elaine Seaver, is also there and doing fabulous work on a promising new system, the polychaete worm Capitella. If you want to know about body plan evolution, we need the kind of comparative approach she’s taking.
Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Education
HawaiÊ»i Hall 211
2500 Campus Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
Let them know what an incredibly short-sighted decision this is, and what a failure of vision in the making. Not only does it harm the university immediately, damaging their reputation and costing them a useful facility, but think of the message it’s sending, that productive and esteemed faculty at the University of Hawaii can have their work so cavalierly dismissed and their laboratories demolished.